Pica Chile Mix
Pack Art Backstory

A discussion with artist Emily C-D 

Our Pica Chile Mix is a spicy celebration, inspired by the work of Semillas Colibrí Seed Bank and Somos Semilla Seed Library, two nonprofit organizations encouraging seed-saving of open-pollinated crops, particularly crops adapted to the Mexican climate and nearby regions.  Their work helps to preserve biodiversity, distinctive cultural heritage, and supports local farmers. It is through the Spanish seed-saving manual Semillas Para Todos (Seeds for Everyone) written by Somos Semilla and Sustainable Harvest International, that we discovered artist Emily C-D's incredible watercolors found on nearly every page. 

Emily C-D’s stylized-yet-accurate rendering of chiles was part of a series of paintings made for the book, one of very few lushly illustrated Spanish language seed-saving guides, and we are honored that Emily shared this painting as an illustration for Pica Chile Mix. We think it captures the beautiful diversity of colors, shapes, and flavor personalities in Pica Chile—and we love how the painting includes anatomical cross-sections to reveal the seeds within.

Originally from Maryland but based in Mexico for the past decade, Emily collaborates with diverse communities on both sides of the border. Working together on the Art Pack design and the Fine Art Print, we were inspired by her enthusiasm for art’s power to connect people with their surroundings and to each other. We wanted to know a little more about her approach to making art and how she sees her role as an artist.

From Baltimore and Washington D.C. to Michoacán and Mexico City, Emily C-D’s colorful murals and outdoor interactive installations have taken place in both urban and rural settings. Asked why she makes art, Emily explains, “to communicate, to celebrate, to play with color, rhythm and form. To inspire change and upend the cultural norm.” 

Her art and love of seeds led her to join forces with biologist Sole Saburido and agroecologist Jenn Ungemach to bring Semillas Para Todos into being. “I don't just paint botanicals because I love plants,” Emily tells us, “I am directly involved in the seed saving movement as the visual voice of the Somos Semilla (We Are Seed) Community Seed Library in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.” The book is an especially valuable resource because, as Emily explains, “precious seed diversity is being lost, AND so many of the people cultivating our food speak Spanish!”

Our first bilingual Art Pack, Pica Chile Mix esta Mezcla de chiles mexicanos es una celebración de sabor y amor.  It's a spicy celebration of  Habanero, Ancho Poblano, Serrano Tampiqueno, and Serrano hot peppers. Each pepper has a unique story with its own shape, color, flavor, culinary use and place of origin. 

In her painting of chiles (available as a print here), Emily wanted to highlight their range of colors, shapes, and sizes and relates this to a deeper undercurrent in her work: “You know, there is a lot of focus on diversity lately, mostly as it relates to us humans and our ability to get along with each other. Ultimately, our beautiful differences are the reflection and result of being a part of Nature, where diversity is always an indicator of a healthy system." 

Drawing from her experience as an artist working with open-pollinated seeds, Emily says, “Besides art having the power to inspire action, images can educate and instruct in ways that words just cannot.That has particular significance in terms of communicating to the next generation ancestral knowledge like planting, cultivating and seed saving, and as such I believe art is essential to ensuring a greener future.” 

We couldn't agree more.

Emily C-D’s striking imagery has become ubiquitously recognizable among the Spanish-speaking seed-saving community, attesting to the importance of visual art’s power to connect people to ideas, cultural practices, and each other.

So, what’s on the horizon for Emily? “Right now I am thrilled to be working on a big secret project with Huertos Milpazul, a school garden nonprofit in Mexico City. And keep your eyes out, I am very excited to be creating the art for the 39th annual conference and 50th Anniversary of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT).”  

To keep up with Emily C-D's colorful world, follow her on Instagram here